Guitar Portfolio

It has been a loooong time without a post. I’ve not forgotten you all but working away from home has completed diverted me from guitar/music projects so there has been little to document.

Tomorrow I’m attending one of those company “team building” events and, as an ice-breaker, we were asked to bring in a picture that will illustrate something about our lives that most of our colleagues wouldn’t know about. Here’s mine.

For anybody who has followed this blog for a while, there’s nothing new here, but it was very rewarding for me seeing them all in one place. Last year was a damn sight more productive than I had realised.

And for anyone interested in how I put the image together I used the “Collage” feature in Picasa. Very easy to get some interesting layouts in a matter of minutes.

Finishing with Danish oil

I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with the best way of applying Danish oil and I think I’ve just about arrived at the perfect approach for me.

Day One

The first phase is all about getting the first coats to soak in as deeply as possible to give a good foundation to the top coats. I don’t know for certain but I’m hoping this deep soak, means that it will be a more durable and longer lasting finish too. I get the oil and piece to be finished good and warm as a start. Using a brush I apply a liberal coat, let that soak in for 15 mins and repeat. You can see the areas where it has reached saturation point because the surface retains the satin sheen. Keep going until the whole piece has got that satin sheen. Give it a wipe down with a lint free rag and give it an hour or two to dry. After the drying period, if there are spots that appear “dry” I do it again. Once you’re happy let it dry over-night.

Day Two

The second day is all about applying the thinner top coats to give it a deeper finish. For a long while I used 400 or 600 grit wet & dry paper to apply these coats. This helps flatten out any imperfections as you apply. It worked well but because the paper doesn’t hold any oil, you are continually dipping the paper back into the oil; inconvenient, messy and unnecessarily wasteful. The breakthrough came when I tried an old, well used, green nylon scouring pad. It went through the washing machine first to ensure that it was clean and grease free. This works brilliantly. It is gently abrasive and it’ll hold a decent amount of oil so that you’re not continually stopping to reload. Once the thinner coat is on, any excess gets wiped away with the lint-free cloth and allowed to dry. Throughout the second day I do this every 60 to 90 mins. I leave it to dry a minimum of 24 hours (48 is better) and then top it off with a good wax polish.

Here are some of the progress pictures from day two of applying oil to the minibass.

Test recording of the custom bass

This morning I made a quick recording with the new bass and, rather than posting to soundcloud, as I normally would, decided to test out Windows Live Movie Maker to add a slideshow and some video.

The track was recorded direct into Reaper and Amplitube. Drums by EZ Drummer.

Custom bass is finished

The Danish oil had hardened nicely so it was on to assembly, wiring and set up.

First I gave the body and neck a good wipe down with a wax-based non-silicone polish. Note the tapered candle stuck through the hole in the top left of my bench. I leave that in there so that I can quickly swipe screws across it to lubricate them as I assemble.

This is the step I usually forget. I thread the earth strap wire through from the control cavity and fan out the strands to make a good contact with the base of the bridge.

All the hardware on.

I wire up the cavity. Simple passive volume and tone. The one variant I use is rather than putting the tone control across the input to the volume I put it across the output from the volume (aka “The Fezz Parker mod”). This reduces treble loss at low volumes. The lead from the pickup is far longer than I need but, raather than cropping it to length, I prefer to roll it up and tuck it away in the cavity, because I may want to reuse the pickup somewhere else later and I may be glad of the extra length of wire on it.

I break out one of my favourite little tools for testing continuity. Its a jack plug and short length of cable from a broken guitar lead. I can use my multimeter to clip one end to the lead’s shield and then go probing about touching all of the parts that should be grounded (pickup ground, pot backs, bridge) checking connectivity.

Now the wiring is complete I can get the strings on, do a rough initial set up (I like to let it settle for a week or two before doing a final setup) and there she is… COMPLETED!

It took me eight working days. The costs break down as follows;

Item Amount
Donor bass £53.20
Sapele timber for body £18.00
Musicman style pickup £14.99
Chrome bridge £17.99
Total £104.18

That’s what I call a result!

Voodoo Telecaster: More Danish oil

Over the past three days the back and neck have had around 12 coats of Danish oil. After leaving it overnight in a warm room it was ready for the final coats of the oil finish.

I flatted it back using wet 600 grit paper, with just a tiny dab of washing up liquid in the water.

I cleaned and dried this off and then applied the final coats of oil. And here is the back finished.

It’ll now go back in the warm room to dry. The only thing left to do to it will be to give it a light buff and wax polish, which I’ll do at the same time I’m finishing off the top.

Voodoo Telecaster: Finishing the back and neck with Danish oil

It has been a few days since I finished lacquering the top and I figured that the surface, whilst still having a long way to go, had cured hard enough to withstand some masking tape. Time to add finish to the back and neck. I used a Stanley knife blade to scrape the edges of the lacquer that had seeped under the masking and then I remasked the guitar, just leaving the sapele visible.

I warmed the can of Danish oil in a tub of water that was just above “hand hot” and then applied with a lint-free cloth, wiping off the excess.

Once this has dried it’ll get another deep soak coat applied with a fresh lint-free cloth. From that point on I like to apply the oil using 600 grit wet and dry, which sort of makes a slurry with previous coats and any imperfections in the wood, and dries to a nice smooth, durable satin finish.

Voodoo Telecaster: Lacquer, Decal and Truss Rod Cover

When the Sanding Sealer had dried I couldn’t resist loading up the components onto the body to see how it looked.

I flatted that back with 400 grit and then spent another day adding coats of sanding sealer, leaving it to dry overnight.

I started the morning by flatting it back with 400 grit again and then on with the first coat of lacquer.

After the first coat I applied the decal to the headstock. I had printed it out the previous night and coloured in the text and skull with the liquid gold and silver pens.

After applying the decal, I gave it a couple of very light coats and then started to bury it in the lacquer. In between each coat I would flat back with 600 grit to feather the edges.

And here is it well and truly embedded.

At the same time as these coats of lacquer were going on the headstock I was also doing the body. One thing I’ve noticed about the Rothko & Frost lacquer I’m using this time was that it was a lot more viscous than the Reranch stuff I’d used previously. It was getting very orange-peel-y, as you can see here.

Whilst I was never going to overcome this totally, I flatted back with 600 grit and resolved to try and lay the last couple of coats of lacquer on a little thicker, and hopefully stay just on this side of drips and runs.

It was scary for a minute or two but it had the desired effect. Not without the orange peel effect totally but much better, and the lacquer coats are thick enough now to allow me the luxury of polishing this out.

Now that the lacquer is on I just have to remain patient for at least 2-3 weeks so that it can cure to a state where it is hard enough to polish.

So while that’s happening I’ll get on with some of the other jobs and finishing touches.

First off I need to make myself a truss rod cover. I had though about using a piece of the maple offcut from the cap and then it dawned on me – I still had a lot of that horn left over that I had used for the nut. I timmed off a thin piece

And after 30 mins with increasing grades of sandpaper had this.

I wasn’t too sure about this lighter shade so I trimmed off another piece from the dark end of the horn and crafted this one.

Much better, don’t you think?

And that’s it for now. Tomorrow I’m going to finish up a few of the loose ends on the Rockmangle, and wire up the Tele control panel.